UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, PhD, center, among the Journal presenters at the 2017 scientific proceeding of Innovation&Equity.


Tragedy was the mother of invention for Rev. George McKinney as a swimming pool drowning led to the creation of a wearable device that received a patent for his startup in San Diego, Better Life Technologies Inc.

SAN DIEGO --  The Church of God in Christ has its roots in a startup.    In the years before World War One, the Azusa Movement took hold like wildfire, creating a Pentacostal denomination that has become one of the largest African-American churches.   One should not be surprised that a pastor and son of a bishop, Rev. George McKinney, would take an entrepreneurial approach to tragedy.

After a friend of his son died in a swimming pool accident at McKinney's home,"I asked the Lord, "What is to be learned from this?' To me, this was a senseless tragedy.  It was at that time I began seeing some visions of a device. Then I had a dream and in the dream, I saw schematics. What it would look like.  The Lord started showing me those things.  So I started committing my thoughts to paper."

For those who might scoff, McKinney's Better Life Technologies Inc. achieved a U.S. patent 8,659,435 B2 in Feb. 2014 for the wearable device that incorporates vitality monitoring, GPS and personal identification technologies. He named it the Albert Jones Anti-Distress Device.    It has now been named the Swim Hawk.

But McKinney's love for humanity has led to another advance.  Better Life Technologies Inc. has now applied for a patent for non-invasive glucose monitoring, a capability which became evident with the Swim Hawk.    As operator of a skilled nursing facility for senior citizens, McKinney recognizes that this advance can save billions for test strips and other equipment now used to monitor diabetes patients, a malady which is prevalent in the African-American population.

Like the Swim Hawk, which addresses a high rate of swimming deaths among black youth, the glucose monitoring technology is an example of human-centered computing or ethnocomputing, both terms devised by fellow 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology member Dr. Juan Gilbert, Preeminence Professor and Research Chair at the University of Florida.   Gilbert notes that culture and society can not be delinked from invention.    Scientific resources must be made available to communities like the parishioners of McKinney's church to address the problems they face.

Better Life Technologies began with a vision, just like the Church of God in Christ.  McKinney's faith inspires him to pursue innovation with the same vigor as his ministry.